Who wants to stay cooped up inside during the glorious Seattle summers we all eagerly await and delight in?
I certainly don’t, and neither do most locals I know. But arts lovers like me can get our summer culture fix and our sunshine too, thanks to an array of al fresco arts and entertainment options Seattle’s vibrant cultural scene affords in the warmer months.
You may need sunscreen and your own fold-up seating. Or maybe a blanket to spread out on the grass and double as a table cloth for a picnic spread.
Let some fresh-air loving local arts groups handle the rest. Best of all, many of the Seattle area’s outdoor dance, music, theater, and other cultural events are low cost or free of charge. (Donations are encouraged and much appreciated.)
Here are a few of my favorites to check out.
Free Open-Air Shakespeare
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” pondered the incomparable bard William Shakespeare in one of his sonnets.
Shakespeare is the resident playwright for many a summer theater, and about a half-dozen intrepid troupes in Seattle and beyond tour their classical shows to parks and other outdoor sites around Western Washington. So why not commune with these hallowed tales of woe and ribald comedy while lolling on park lawns in balmy climes?
The Bard of Avon’s scripts are abridged for these occasions. But the essential language and plot points remain, and up-and-coming local actors and directors are often showcased.
Two footloose troupes are standouts: Wooden O (an arm of the indoor Seattle Shakespeare Company) and Greenstage.
Misha BersonThis summer, through August 7, Wooden O presents the titanic tragedy of Hamlet and the comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost in parks from Bellevue to Edmonds. For a schedule, go to seattleshakespeare.org or call 206-733-8222.
Greenstage, which sticks mostly to Seattle locales, is even busier. Their park season of Cymbeline and The Merry Wives of Windsor continues through Aug. 13, as does their Backyard Bard program of four-actor mini-versions of Pericles and Twelfth Night. Details: greenstage.org or 206-748-1551.
Music Under the Stars
This beloved annual event produced by the Seattle Chamber Orchestra welcomes you to sit back and enjoy classic compositions performed by fine musicians in several Seattle parks.
Featuring professional chamber groups and top-notch student ensembles from Cornish College, Seattle Pacific University, University of Washington, and the Seattle Youth Symphony, the concerts are free of charge and run various nights, July 5 through 26. Venues include Delridge Playfield in West Seattle, plus Seattle’s Columbia Park, Volunteer Park, and Freeway Park.
And on July 27, Seattle Chamber Society musicians will perform another free classical treat: an evening of works by Felix Mendelssohn and Dmitri Shostakovich at Volunteer Park.
For the summer concert schedule, which also includes some indoor events, call 206-283-8710 or go to seattlechambermusic.org.
Dancing til Dusk
If toe-tapping sounds are more to your liking, and you’re tempted to get up and boogie when the mood strikes, downtown Seattle has a treat in store for you.
Presented by Dance for Joy, Seattle Parks and Recreation, and other community organizations, Dancing til Dusk offers over a dozen opportunities in July and August to listen to hot local bands in downtown parks and, if you wish, trip the light fantastic. The series is a free, all-ages affair, and great fun.
The locations—Bell Street Park, Freeway Park, Westlake Park, and Occidental Park—may be low on greenery. But they have room to swing your partner—or sit it out and soak in the sounds of salsa, swing music, big band jazz, and more.
A bonus: Come an hour earlier for a free dance lesson, matched to the style of that evening’s band.
The concerts happen from 6 to 9:30 p.m., when parking downtown is more plentiful and cheaper. But why drive? Public transit will get you there with minimum hassle.
More information and a schedule at 206-264-5646 or danceforjoy.biz.
Misha Berson writes about the arts for The Seattle Times and many other publications, and is the author of four books, including Something’s Coming, Something Good: West Side Story and the American Imagination (Applause/Hal Leonard)